October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
I was married late in the year and since it was so close to Christmas, I got started making ornaments for our first tree. To keep it economical, I bought safety pins and beads. I put beads onto the pins and then wired them into a variety of shapes: stars, trees, circles, snowflakes, etc. It took some time, but with my husband at work, I had some time to myself during the day.
I didn’t have a lot of free time, there was cooking, cleaning, hand-washing laundry in the bathtub, cleaning and sterilizing the wounds from his abuse . . . , but by the time Christmas approached, I had wired enough beads to surprise my husband with my hand-made ornaments.
We went looking for a tree. It got me out of the house, though not terribly far. There was a place in town that had a few trees left. I spotted a tree that looked a bit battered – like me – and asked to bring that one home. It would have been discarded for sure. It had a large bare spot where, for whatever reason, no branches had sprouted. It didn’t matter to me. We had a corner in the living room where we planned to put the tree and with the bare spot to the wall, it wouldn’t have been noticeable. Besides, I thought we could get a good deal on the tree because of the bare spot.
We got it for free.
After setting the tree in the appropriated corner, the terrifying home took on an almost festive look: one-room stove with a big dog warming herself and resting near the heat, Christmas tree, snow falling outside, etc. It gave me hope for some peace for the holidays. I pulled out the box of ornaments I had made and handed them to my husband to hang on the tree.
The safety pins and beads found their way to our tree, but little did I know they would never see Christmas.
Within days, my husband had another episode of rage and violence and in the process, he yanked every ornament off the tree, threw them to the floor and stomped each one into irreparable shards. When the beads were all destroyed, he heaved the festive symbol of Christmas from its stand and beat me with it. The first blow knocked me to the floor and with each successive swing, the tree hit my back.
The picturesque dog in front of the one-room stove leapt to my rescue – again. When it was all over, he went to bed and left the mess and whimpering dog, to me. I picked up pine needles and broken tree branches and chucked them, with my holiday spirit, into the trash. I swept up the broken remains of a month’s work of beading and slipped it all into the trash, too.
I walked to the kitchen to return the broom and dustpan to their respective hooks. I turned the radio on to see if I could find a quiet Christmas carol. What I heard was Kenny Rogers singing “Lucille.”
“This time the hurtin’ won’t heal . . .” I thought to myself, ‘Those are my word’s tonight!’
We went without a tree that Christmas and the rest of the holiday memory is collecting dust somewhere in the back of my mind. Many Christmases have come and gone since then, but never a second one with my abusive husband.
Today I am wearing purple in honor of the little tree that spent our first Christmas in the trash instead of in our living room and for the vow I made to myself – much too soon after I made the first one to my husband.